Ikere: The trouble this time

The Olukere leading a protest

All along, the matter known with Ikere-Ekiti, headquarters of Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State, has been the controversy between the status of the two monarchical institutions in the community. The paramount ruler of the community, the Ogoga, has no issues in being the prescribing authority of the town and Oba Adejimi Adu Alagbado is competently playing that role.

However, the same cannot be said of the Olukere stool. The government has not given recognition to the Olukere and for this singular reason, the Ogoga has insisted that he mustn’t be addressed as a monarch. And this has remained the major point of disagreement between the two traditional institutions in the community.

The Olukere, Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin, since he was crowned by his people about three years ago, has engaged all opportunities that comes his way to prove that the Olukere is the real traditional ruler of the people. He has ususally done this against the contention of the Ogoga that he is only a chief priest of the Olosunta, the main deity of the Ikere people.

Thus, whenever issues of traditional colourations creeps into the public space, the Ogoga/Olukere feud is what readily comes to mind. However, the trouble this time in Ikere is not as directly as the familiar Olukere versus the Ogoga; it is, in addition to that what many have come to see as Olukere and Ogoga and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and more.

There was nothing seen or known as a brewing crisis in the public domain until the news of a visit of Governor Fayose to Ikere on Monday, June 5, 2198. It was said that the governor had arrived in the community in the evening of the day and had ordered the contractor handling the expansion and dualisation of the Ado Ekiti – Ikere – Akure boundary road to remove a tree in the way of the road project. This, according to the news late that Monday evening had irked the people and they said it was impossible to remove the tree.

By Tuesday morning, the town had been brought to its knees by protesting Olukere Obasoyin, his chiefs and youths. They said the tree was untouchable, being the heritage of the the Olukere and the founders of the town. At Ereja, where the tree is, the people formed a kind of guard and were on standby for any eventuality. Beyond their physical presence, they had also place sacrificial offerings near the tree and the construction site for obvious spiritual support.

The Olukere Obasonyin said: “On Monday, the governor led security agents to Ikere that the shrine be bulldozed; it is when a king dies that the branches of the tree are trimmed and I went to meet the governor that he should not pass a death sentence on me since I have committed no offence.

“The Ereja is where Ikere people meet once in every year, if that tree is removed, it means they have killed the Olukere. The people came out Monday that they don’t want their king to be killed. This is the tradition here, the tree branches are cut only if the Oba dies. In every community, we have traditional heritage and cultural heritage and nobody can kill our cultural heritage.

“The only way forward is that government should see reason with the people of Ikere and respect the people’s cultural heritage. If there is no town, you cannot be governor over people. The expatriate contractor said the sacred tree at Ereja does not hinder the construction work and that they could even use the shrine as a way of adding aesthetics to the job.”

 

The Ogoga angle

The Olukere Obasoyin could not have addressed the issue without calling out the Ogoga. He cited several documents, including one he said was a 1933 intelligence report, which affirmed that the Olukere was the traditional ruler of the community long before the arrival of the Ogoga in the community. He said the Ogoga was a  “elephant hunter” and that he had traced an elephant he had shot to Ikere, where he ended up becoming an integral part of the town.

He insisted that the Ogoga arrived in Ikere and was received by the Olukere and that he usurped his host and had ever since subverted the Olukere. “The people no longer want the visitor who has usurped their king. The visitor should leave our land as he has created more troubles for us than good.”

According to Obasoyin, it was the Ogoga, “being in the good books of the government” that gave the government the go-ahead to bulldoze the tree at Ereja, knowing well that without that tree, there will not be Olukere. He claimed that “they want to erase everything that is the symbol of Ikere since he is a visitor and doesn’t know them and what they stand for.”

The Ogoga, Oba Adejimi Adu in reaction, however, chose to react based on how the Olukere conducted himself on Monday, June 5 and Tuesday, June 6, 2017. He claimed that the Olukere Obasoyin did not conduct himself in any decent manner in his dealing with the state governor on the matter. “Chiefs of the kingdom have refrained from joining issues with Ganiyu Obasoyin on the pages of newspaper or over the radio as we consider him and his gangs of thugs irritable nuisance that should ordinarily  be dealt with appropriately by the law enforcement agents.”

Ogoga Adejimi Adu said Olukere was not the founder of the community as being claimed by Obasoyin, and that Aladeselu, who are the founders and who are the custodians of the shrines in the town. He said the Olukere Obasoyin “does not represent Ikere.”

The Ogoga said: “We state unequivocally that the family of Aladeselu, the first settler and known founder of Ikere whose imprint can be found in Odo-Oja, his place of abode, is the custodian of the shrines erected and planted at Ereja and not any other person or Ganiyu Obasoyin family.

“That the Aladeselu family after due consultation with Ogoga in Council has concluded the relocation of the shrines in December 2016, despite the  incident of 27th December 2016 when Ganiyu Obasoyin and his thugs tried to disrupt the exercise by members of the Aladeselu family, a case which is still with the Nigeria Police, six months after.”

Money moves the deities, shrines?

Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose was on a live broadcast programme on Tuesday and, among other things, he reacted to the newest crisis in Ikere. Fayose, who was asked what he thought of the crisis, expressed surprise that the issue had degenerated, and explained that earlier in the year, the state government and the Olukere had met and agreed that the shrines in the way of the road construction be relocated, and that funds amounting to N1million were provided for this purpose.

Fayose said: “It is my pleasure that we progress and our society becoming better. In my first term, I started the dualisation and the project stopped where I left it and we started again when I came back to office. We decided to do the project in three phases and we are on the third phase. When we started, we met the Ogoga of Ikere, Oba Jimi Adu Alagbado, who said there were shrines along the project route for us to handle.

“Later, the Olukere came into the scene and said the affected area is his domain and that the issue of relocating the shrines did not concern the Ogoga. I told him that we might not be able to bend the road. Prominent Ikere indigenes such as a former governor of the old Ondo State, Chief Bamidele Olumilua, were at the meeting.

“To help in performing the necessary rituals to relocate the shrines, the Olukere was given N1million on January 11, 2017 to relocate the deities and shrines. He collected the money at the Government House, Ado-Ekiti and the vouchers he signed are still available.”

Governor Fayose was noted by very many people to have displayed equanimity and maturity in reacting to the Olukere issue. This is even in the face of the allegations by Oba Ganiyu Obasoyin that he was being persecuted by Governor Fayose for not supporting his governorship ambition in 2014. Olukere said he chose Dr Kayode Fayemi over Governor Fayose in the 2014 governorship election just like any other Nigerian had a right to support anyone they liked. “Since that election, I’ve not been in the good books of Governor Fayose.”

But Fayose ignored all those but maintained that the state must move forward irrespective of whatever anyone believed. He said “in as much as we have respect for traditional institutions, it was a surprise to see the Olukere leading irate youths to stop contractors from doing their job. I want to appeal to the Olukere to allow peace to reign.”

 

Way forward?

The Olukere had stated on Tuesday that his palace was given some money to relocate the deities, but didn’t state the amount.  The governor announced publicly that the amount he gave was N1million. The Olukere retorted that the amount was N850,000 and that it was his chiefs that collected the money and not him as a person. There is no controversy over why the money exchanged hands. The Ogoga held that “it should be noted that Ganiyu Obasoyin going to collect N1million from the state government through false pretences is an act of impersonation criminal and fraudulent.”

The contention in the community nay, the state is that since money has been paid for the relocation if the deities and shrines, there should hardly be any form of crisis on the matter, and the project meant for the development of the community must be allowed to go on.

The Olukere said that the contractor handling the project had told him that he could do the job without removing the tree. He even cited examples of some localities where roads are built around such monuments and sites. But the governor said it was a misnomer that a dual-carriage way would be encumbered by such impediments, saying “if, along the way some other trees are found, would the road then be made to circumvent it because it is a deity or a shrine? How many of such can we possibly handle in the course of the project and others?

There are contentions that it could be a roundabout. But what the government and the contractors have in their terms also matter. For the outsider watching these events from afar, it tells on the extent you may have to go to be able to bring even development in Ekiti State.

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